By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants
Most of us have experienced the positive feeling of a post shopping rush, it’s exciting to have something new and the brain releases oxytocin because of our improved mood, making us feel happier, more relaxed and less stressed. And although I wouldn’t go as far promoting it as formal ‘therapy’, there is some science behind the term ‘retail therapy’.
A recent study published in the Journal of Psychology and Marketing by researchers Selin Atalay and Margaret Meloy found that 62% of shoppers had purchased something to cheer themselves up and another 28% had purchased as a form of celebration.
Consumer behaviour is complex and has been studied for years on end with many theories on why people are so obsessed with commodity and owning ‘things’.
We live in an age where we are judge on material things like, what car we drive, the type of clothes we wear and the size of our house. So, it’s little wonder that people’s desire to own things is stronger than ever.
But retail therapy is more than just material desire, when practiced in moderation it can offer a range of therapeutic benefits, including socialisation, relaxation, boosting self-confidence, stress relief and creative expression.
Researchers noted that people who are experiencing low mood are searching for greater control over their situation. Shopping is their coping mechanism offering a controlled environment where they have say over where they shop and what they purchase.
But is this a good thing?
Like all things, moderation is the key. As a psychologist I has seen the devastating effects of addictive behaviour, although ‘retail therapy’ can improve mood, there should be positive reasons for using it as an outlet. Using shopping as a method of escape from reality that in turn results in credit card debt or financial stress, is counterproductive.
Signs to watch out for include; irritability after shopping, feelings of extreme guilt or hiding your purchases. If you feel your shopping experiences are getting out of control, the first step is to acknowledge the problem and if required seek professional help.
For more information on Kathryn and the team of Clinical Psychologists at Psychology Consultants visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au